New nonprofit group partners with insurance companies to research medical data

Professor Stephen Parente was named to the seven-member governing board of the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) - a new health research initiative that will allow researchers and policymakers access to a comprehensive collection of health plan and government payer data and offer new insights into health care costs, utilization, and intensity.

HCCI will provide access to de-identified data from plans operated by Aetna, Humana, Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealthcare, as well as some government data from Medicare Fee for Service and Medicare Advantage activity. These data will include more than 5 billion medical claim records representing more than $1 trillion of health care activity from over 5,000 hospitals and 1 million service providers from calendar year 2000 through the present. Additionally, the commercial data will be updated regularly to ensure its usefulness for research purposes.

"No one has seen anything like this before," Parente told the Star Tribune. "This is something we always thought would be great to do, but to get the plans to agree to do it was a challenge."

Parente, who is also director of the Medical Industry Leadership Institute, adds that gaining access to private insurance data, which covers the majority of Americans, could be a researcher's gold mine, offering a "granular level of detail" on every aspect of care. It's the hope of the Institute that this will lead to more efficient spending decisions on all levels of health coverage.

As a member of the governing board, Parente will help HCCI put in place proper procedures to ensure the integrity of its work. The board will also work to broaden the list of participating health plans and add more data from government payers, including Medicaid.